Page last updated at 18:07 GMT, Thursday, 15 May 2008 19:07 UK

Calls to stop zoo's panda plans

Giant panda - Robyn Rowles Photography
Politicians have called on Edinburgh Zoo to change its mind

Politicians north and south of the border have called on Edinburgh Zoo to reconsider its plans for a giant panda breeding programme.

Scottish Green MSP Robin Harper has tabled a motion at Holyrood expressing concerns at plans by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS).

It has been proposed that a breeding pair should be loaned from China.

The RZSS said work in zoos was integral to preserving the species and helped conservationists in China.

Animal campaigners claim no captive-bred panda has ever been released into the wild and conservation groups say the best way to ensure their future is to protect their natural habitat.

'Captive breeding'

Robin Harper MSP said: "The Scottish Green Party support efforts to conserve giant pandas, but we are seriously concerned that the proposal to attempt captive breeding for re-introduction into the wild has little prospect of success.

"We would far rather see the RZSS working in collaboration with their Chinese counterparts in China, investing with them in extending giant panda habitats and maintenance."

Advocates for Animals campaigns director Ross Minett said: "Edinburgh Zoo seems to be putting money, visitor numbers and the prestige of having unusual animals in its collection above concerns for animal welfare and conservation."

Zoos are able to invest valuable resources into researching the biology of this species
David Windmill

He said to make the provision of support for conservation projects dependent on the acquisition of animals for exhibition in a Scottish zoo was "unethical".

At Westminster, Liberal Democrat MP Mike Hancock has also tabled an early day motion (EDM) on the same subject.

But the RZSS, which owns Edinburgh Zoo, said that having a panda population in zoos and reserves was "integral to sustaining the giant panda population as a whole".

David Windmill, chief executive of the RZSS, said: "Zoos are able to invest valuable resources into researching the biology of this species.

"This information is then shared with conservationists in China to help them gain a greater understanding of the wild population."

Money which the Chinese government receives from RZSS for the loan of the pandas is to go into conservation projects.

The society also said new attempts to reintroduce pandas into the wild would probably be with females, which are less aggressive than males.

Giant panda hope for Scottish zoo
12 May 08 |  Edinburgh, East and Fife

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